Adelani Adepegba and Olaleye Aluko
The Nigerian Air Force, on Friday, said it buried the 24-year-old first female combat helicopter pilot, Tolulope Arotile, without an autopsy because the family did not request for it.
The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, who stated this on Channels Television, noted that the air force handed over the suspects and the case to the Kaduna State Police Command on Friday.
The NAF spokesman said the pilot’s family believed the circumstances surrounding her death were clear and no autopsy was further needed.
Arotile died on July 14 at the NAF Base in Kaduna in a road traffic accident when some of her excited classmates reportedly reversed a KIA Sorento, which hit her from the rear.
The lady, a member of the Nigeria Defence Academy Regular Course 64, had been buried on Thursday at the National Military Cemetery in full military honours.
There have, however, been calls from some Nigerians and groups, including Yoruba’s socio-cultural group, Afenifere, that the death of the pilot should investigated and there should be a coroner’s inquest.
Some Nigerians on Twitter had also asked the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, to “provide more explanations on the cause of Arotile’s death as the accident theory is untenable.”
Speaking on Channels, NAF spokesman, Daramola, said no autopsy was done because the family did not request an autopsy as they were satisfied with the investigations carried out by the military.
He said, “As a result of the flying officer being known within and outside the country, there has been a lot of interest and attention occasioned by how she passed away in such an untimely manner.
“Regarding the request for an autopsy or otherwise, that would have been initiated by the family but based on discussions with them and the fact that witnesses were there at the time, and she was taken to the NAF hospital in Kaduna, there were no doubts as to the cause of death, which was a head injury as a result of blunt force trauma caused by the vehicle hitting her from the rear.
“So, in consultation with her family, her father, an engineer, Akintunde Arotile, said he wanted closure on this matter and that he was comfortable with NAF investigation, which of course is also being transferred to the police because the police were involved from the outset.
“An autopsy was not done because it wasn’t requested; the cause of death was already known based on the investigation and how she was taken to the hospital and the confirmation was made. There were no doubts in that regard and there was no request from the family for that specifically. No autopsy was done.”
Daramola further stated that the Federal Road Safety Corps was invited to investigate the incident.
He said, “First of all, we carried out a preliminary investigation to determine those who were involved and their level of involvement, interviewed witnesses and looked at the scene. In doing that, that was our own first phase of investigation because it happened on the base.
“The air force has its own air police directorate where we have forensic and K9 investigators, many of whom are trained in and out of the country. There is a lot of collaboration between the Nigerian Air Force Air Police Wing and the Nigeria Police. Immediately it occurred, we involved the police from the Kawo station and also from the state command.”
The spokesman noted that the person that drove the car, Nehemiah Adejoh, which knocked down Arotile was not aged 36 as being circulated but 24; he noted that the other two suspects were also aged 24 and 26.
Meanwhile, the suspects, Adejoh, Igbekele Folorunsho and Festus Gbayegun, were handed over to the police who came to the NAF Base in Kaduna.
It had been reported that Adejoh may face manslaughter charges and on conviction, is liable to seven years imprisonment, according to Section 28 of the Road Traffic Law.
According to a NAF release, the Commander, 453 Base Services Group, Group Captain Hadi Ahmed, said the NAF would continue to cooperate with the police and provide all necessary support to enable it take the case to a logical conclusion.